The Duke’s Dear Poet – Extended Epilogue

May 1820

Amberwood Manor, Outskirts of London

The Duchess of Amberwood, Abigail Gilbert, was stuck on the last two lines of the sonnet she was writing. She knew what she wanted to say, and she knew which words she wanted to include, but she could not get them to scan correctly. There had been only two other times in recent years where she had struggled with her poetry, both of which when she later discovered that she was with child. It was as though her concentration vanished into thin air, to be replaced by so many other emotions and feelings that coursed through her body. There was not enough room for everything, it seemed.

She placed her quill across the top of the desk and put her hand over her stomach. It felt different this time … perhaps it would be a girl.

A cry went up from outside, and she glanced at the window to see the children playing in the garden with their father. Abigail looked at the clock. Hamish had clearly finished his work early, for usually at this time of day it was the nanny who played with the boys and not their father. She smiled and put an elbow on the desktop, resting her chin in her hand, and she watched them play with the masks they had discovered. Christopher, the eldest, was wearing what looked like a wolf’s mask. Abigail could not see Michael’s mask because he was running away from the house.

Hamish called something out to them both. Abigail could not make out what he was saying. But when he turned towards the house, she waved at him, and he waved back. Then he was off after the children, picking them up in turns and swinging them in the air. They were taking advantage of the fine, dry weather, which was a rarity this year, it seemed.

Abigail looked down at her poem again and shook her head. She would not get anything new written now until at least after the morning sickness had been and gone. Unless it was going to be different if it was a girl. She would not tell Hamish until she’d had it confirmed. For the time being, she would keep it a secret in case anything went badly.

The clock struck four, and Abigail stood up to open the window.

“Hamish!” she called out. “Hamish!”

Her husband stopped what he was doing and turned once again towards the house, cupping a hand over his ear so he could hear her.

“It is time for the children to have their tea,” she shouted.

“Already?” he called back. “What time is it?”

“It is four o’clock, but do not forget that we are going to your sister’s this evening,” she said. He put a finger in the air and nodded as he remembered, and she closed the window and tidied her writing materials away.

It was the first masquerade ball they had attended since the Figshires’ ball of 1814 when they had first met. Oh, there had been balls aplenty in the intervening years, but no masquerades. And so Hamish and Abigail decided that to mark the occasion they would go dressed as the same characters as they had done back then. Abigail was going as the moon goddess Selene, and Hamish was going as Domino. The ball was in honour of the Prince Regent ascending the throne in his own right. That was actually back in January when the old king finally passed away, but January was not a month known for balls and, in any case, the country was still in mourning back then.

“Has the king been invited to the ball?” Abigail asked her husband as they were getting ready.

Hamish shrugged. “He may have been, as it is in his honour.”

“Do you think he will attend?” she said, lifting her hair up at the back so he could fasten the diamond and silver necklace that had once belonged to her mother.

“He will likely send someone on his behalf,” said Hamish. Abigail could feel his fingers brushing the back of her neck, then he gently took her hands away from her hair and let the golden curls drop down her back. He looked at her in the mirror on her dressing table. “You were wearing that necklace when first we met,” he said softly.

“I was wearing all of it when first we met,” she replied. “The dress had to be taken out a little,” she added.

“I would not have noticed that had you not told me,” he said with a smile.

She stood up and turned around, straightening his coat. “This still fits you as well as it did back then. Or is it a new one?” she asked him, brushing some specks off the shoulder.

“It is the same one,” he replied. “It was only six years ago, after all.”

She poked him sharply in the ribs. “How rude!” she said, and when she saw his puzzled frown, she added, “I have only this moment told you I have had to have my dress taken out, and you are saying your coat still fits perfectly because it was only six years ago!” She pretended to sulk with a mock pout.

“Ah, but you have borne us two fine and healthy children in the intervening years,” he said. “That alone must make some difference.”

Abigail tugged on her bottom lip with her teeth and wondered if she should tell him her news now. Not that her condition was affecting her size now, it was far too soon. She went to sit on the bed while she pondered.

“What is troubling you, my love?” he said, coming to her and placing his hands on her shoulders.

“Oh, I was wondering if you will still love me when I am old and fat,” she said.

He lifted her chin so that she was looking at him and said with a grin, “I still love you now, do I not?”

She pushed him away from her, picked up a cushion and threw it at him. “You swine! Teasing me in that way,” she said with a laugh.

“Will you still love me when I am old, fat, and bald?” he countered, throwing the cushion back at her.

She was tempted to counter with the same kind of comment that he had, but there was a tap on the door.

Hamish sighed and opened the door. “What is it, Watson?” he said, casting a glance towards his wife as he did so.

“The carriage is ready, Your Grace,” said the butler.

Hamish thanked him and told him they would be down presently. He closed the door and said, “I would sooner stay here and tousle with you all evening than go out dancing all night.”

“So would I!” said his wife.

However, they would not let Katherine and Ross down, and so they tidied themselves up and made their way downstairs.

***

At five minutes to eleven the Hamiltons’ guests congregated in the centre of the ballroom ready for the grand unmasking. Abigail and Hamish had speculated over who was whom and which one was the king’s representative. It was all part of the entertainment. Hamish’s sister Katherine and his best friend Ross were already well known to them. Lady Bartlett was there, of course, making her usual rounds, greeting those she did not recognise behind their disguises as warmly as those that she did. Lady Bartlett threw a huge ball at the start of every season, and it was a great honour to be included in her guest list. But Lady Bartlett’s grand ball was generally in June and not in May.

“Your mother is not here, is she?” said Abigail, looking around. “Or she is wearing a very good disguise if she is.”

“I believe she is attending a fundraising event with Lady Judith,” said Hamish.

Abigail pressed her lips together. Lady Marcia and Lady Judith had tried to cause trouble between her and Hamish before they were married, but the dowager duchess had apologised and appeared to have mended her ways. Nevertheless, Abigail was always a little cautious as far as the two of them were concerned.

As though sensing her thoughts, Hamish said, “Lady Judith’s daughter is now happily married to a wealthy merchant who I believe your father introduced her to, is she not?”

“Yes,” said Abigail. Initially behind her husband’s back, Abigail had arranged for her father to introduce Lady Judith’s husband to some businessmen who were able to help him and them out of a financial hole. The countess was so grateful for the earl not to have landed in a debtors’ prison that she had thrown herself into charitable work ever since and her daughter, Lady Patrina, had become betrothed to one of the gentlemen who had come to their rescue. “Yes,” Abigail repeated. “They must surely be married by now.” They tried to guess the identities of a few more guests then Abigail said, “Grandmama would have had a lot of fun in our little game.”

“I am sure that Lady Florence is having a wonderful time in North Wales,” said Hamish. “Especially as her old friend has gone to visit her for the summer.” Ross Hamilton’s grandmother Lady Vivian and Abigail’s grandmother Lady Florence were friends of old, and they took it in turns visiting each other.

Just then Viscount Hamilton stepped up onto the raised dais, dragging his wife behind him. He was watching a wall clock carefully, and when the second hand was on the number ten, he began the countdown.

“Ten, nine, eight …” he said, with everyone joining in. “Five, four, three …” There was a commotion as the guests reached up to unfasten their masks. “One!” they all shouted, and a hundred masks were peeled away and thrown into the air to cheers and applause.

When the clapping had died down, Abigail said, “Well, I did not know that was the Dowager Countess Walsmure.” Hamish looked to where she was gazing. “She has lost some weight.”

“I believe that Lady Edith has discovered the joy of walking,” said Hamish.

“Oh,” said Lady Abigail. “And there is Mr Nigel Cornworthy and his new wife.”

Again Hamish followed her gaze, but this time he lowered his voice. “I will always be indebted to Cornworthy for coming forward with the truth that day.”

Mr Cornworthy glanced in their direction and nodded an acknowledgement. Hamish tapped his Domino hat with two fingers as though in salute.

“Come,” said Hamish to his wife. “Let us go and congratulate Kitty and Ross on a successful evening.” He caught hold of Abigail’s hand, but just as they were about to make their move, Ross, still on the dais, tapped his glass with a knife to get everyone’s attention again.

“My lords, ladies, and gentlemen,” he said, pulling his wife closer to him. “The viscountess and I would like to thank you all for coming this evening.” There was a ripple of noise as some voiced their response. Ross looked towards the door and said, “And especially to you, My Lord. Please pass on our regards and good wishes to the new king.” The gentleman he was talking to nodded his head in agreement and lifted his glass. “God save the king,” said Ross, and everyone responded with the same. “However,” he continued when once again quiet had descended. “That is not the only thing that we are celebrating.” There was more murmuring, and Lady Katherine grinned at her brother and her sister-in-law and placed a protective hand across her stomach.

“Oh,” said Abigail.

“Oh, indeed,” said Hamish.

“We are delighted to announce,” continued Ross, “that there will be not one but apparently two new babies crawling around before the year is over!”

More cheers followed, including a ‘Bravo!” from Hamish.

Abigail linked her arm in his and leaned close to him, standing on tiptoe to place a kiss on his cheek. Then she said in his ear, “Make that three …”

THE END


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10 thoughts on “The Duke’s Dear Poet – Extended Epilogue”

  1. A great story of past indiscretions and how the past should never control the future. Heart warming and fast paced, this is a must read! The extended epilogue helped to tie everything together so everyone had a ‘happy ending’ to the story.

  2. A beautiful love journey of adventure and mystery. Wonderful characters to add more spice and interesting twists and turns throughout the story. Some of the missive intentions of the dower duchess’ and her best friend’s interests causing trouble, but at end, love won. Beautiful extended epilogue gives it a beautiful happy ending to all. I love and enjoyed reading this amazing and inspiring love story. I highly recommend it. Excellent writing.

  3. A wonderful story. I love the way Abigail and Hamish were able to overcome all the obstacles that kept falling their way. The lines of the poetry were a lovely addition to the story. A book that was hard to put down!

  4. A very good story about a young woman finding it hard to trust after being left at the alter but she met a duke that loved poetry as much as she but had to put up with his mother and her friends trying to part them enjoyable read

  5. This novel in the regency period is heartwarming and Q. Abigail left at the altar went to Wales for two years to mend. Upon her return to England, she meets Hamish, A Duke, who shares her love of reading and poetry. Despite her distrust of men, Abigail develops feelings for Hamish. Much interference from family and friends threatens their relationship. I read this novel as an ARC and thoroughly enjoyed it recommend it highly to others.

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